Child Exploitation vs Child Protection

Joe D
Different Problems - Different Solutions

I was reading an excerpt in the National Post from the Key Porter book by Julian Fantino and Jerry Amernic, Duty - The Life of a Cop. Fantino is now the Commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police and formerly the Toronto Chief of Police.

When Fantino became the Toronto Chief he had staff sergeant Paul Gillespie head up the Child Exploitation Section of the Sex Crimes Unit. A tech-savvy, big-picture guy, Gillespie became increasingly frustrated with the limitations on information sharing among the various law enforcement agencies, coupled with the incredible ability of the bad guys to hide, embed, and encrypt illegal images online…bad guys operating in a virtual world with no borders and no international laws regulating the flow of these images.

As Fantino describes it, one day in 2003 Gillespie decided to send Bill Gates an email asking for help. The result was a private-public partnership that resulted in Microsoft investing 10million USD through 2007 in what has become the international computer program they call the Child Exploitation Tracking System (CETS).

I started my own mental analysis as I always do when reading – endeavoring to relate the narrative to my personal experience, and began to compare and contrast it to the efforts of the Association of Sites Advocating Child Protection (ASACP) which I have supported since I learned of it – as so many of us have - and the depth and breadth of the problem. Founder Alec Helmy was well ahead of the curve in conceptualizing ASACP in 1996, and CEO Joan Irvine along with her advisory council has been relentlessly successful in her efforts to educate across media and political groups, addressing all of the individual elements involved in combating what most people just lump together under the single heading of child pornography. Eliminating the online exploitation of children and the criminal behavior behind it and promoting the protection of children online are two very distinct contemporary challenges.

Child exploitation, or the heart-rending victimization and abuse of those least able to defend themselves, results in brutally horrific material most people would not believe exists – and the like-minded individuals trading this material are the targets of the CETS software as it helps law enforcement agencies combat the online exploitation, which includes the illegal images as well as what Fantino labels ‘luring,’ when a predator establishes an online identity with the intent to entice children into meetings. The software is complex, but incorporates searches of known offenders, suspects, and addresses while searching all public newsgroups on the Internet. It allows for and promotes collaborative information sharing across continents and investigative services and helps agencies connect the dots – to a great degree by linking up non-obvious relationships.

There really is no significant deterrent to those committed to the exploitation. What is the appropriate punishment for someone who destroys a child’s life in this manner? Fantino relates one instance where a four-year-old girl was sexually abused multiple times followed by the distribution of the images online. The perpetrator was sentenced to 4.5 years of incarceration following conviction… Bill O’Reilly has unceasingly railed on individual judges and jurisdictions, and the state legislatures which still have not passed adequate legislation, focusing incredible attention on their failings – and here is where the semantic overlap occurs, because we describe Megan’s Law, for example, as child protection legislation…

Child exploitation should globally evoke the strongest feelings of revulsion and disgust and carry the most significant of punishment – perhaps beginning with life in prison… ASACP is dedicated to eliminating child pornography from the Internet. The organization battles child pornography through its CP reporting hotline, and by promoting and participating in international efforts spanning online industry to combat the heinous crime of child sexual abuse. As Fantino frankly relates in his book, CETS has found and saved children around the world, but it’s still a drop in the ocean. The ASACP hotline with reporting relationships to the arms of justice makes an impact every day, but we cannot rely on the courts or the government to advance the fight as long as these illegal images are confused with issues of freedom of speech and expression reserved for legal content. They must be directly linked to the criminal acts and behavior that created them and treated as the irrefutable evidence of the most brutal crime short of murder that can be committed against a child – and the punishment must have direct correlation to this interpretation of the crime in order to be any type of deterrent.


Child protection encompasses all of this but includes the additional connotation of unwanted or unintentional exposure online to any age-inappropriate images. In this regard the ASACP also works to help parents prevent children from viewing age-inappropriate material while online. In its continuing efforts to help parents protect and supervise kids using the Internet and help the online industry self-police, the Restricted to Adults (RTA) labeling program was created and launched to help in this effort and draw attention to the fact that the adult entertainment industry should be proactive in self-regulation and is demonstrating that this is the case. RTAlabel.org is partnered with a growing list of popular filtering software including NetNanny, empowering involved parents to manage and monitor their children’s online experience.

ASACP will kick off National Internet Safety Month with a press conference on Thursday, May 29th at the historic National Press Club in Washington DC to highlight efforts by the adult entertainment industry to protect children from age-inappropriate Internet content. The press conference will take place in DC and is co-sponsored by the Website Rating and Advisory Council (WRAAC), a non-profit entity which operates ParentalControlBar.com.

“RTA is the adult entertainment industry’s effort to protect children from viewing content that is age-inappropriate,” stated Joan Irvine recently. “Last year during Internet Safety Month we held a press conference to share that message with media in Los Angeles, and this year we will be bringing that message to DC in order to expand our efforts to educate lawmakers on the adult industry’s commitment to protecting children.”

In recent years, the U.S. Senate has designated June as National Internet Safety Month, recognizing the need for measures that organizations, Web designers and families can take to protect children online. As an example of its commitment to child protection, ASACP developed the RTA label in 2006 as an easy to use and internationally recognized label that designates content for adults only. The RTA label is a unique string of “meta data” which can be easily inserted into the computer code of any website. Parental filtering software recognizes the tag and prevents children from viewing the adult content. The RTA label is free and universally available. It now has over four million page link-ins, and pages labeled with the RTA label receive 50 million hits a day.

RTA Label

Just last week The Association of Sites Advocating Child Protection (ASACP) was named the overall winner in the 2008 Associations Make a Better World Awards, an international awards competition sponsored by the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) and The Center for Association Leadership. The Associations Make a Better World Awards recognize associations that engage in compelling programs and activities that benefit communities in the United States and internationally. ASACP received the overall award in the U.S./Developed Nations category for its RTA "Restricted to Adults" website label.

Support the ASACP and RTA efforts as a sponsor or member, or just donate what you can to enable these great efforts to expand.

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